Measuring the Stiffness of Ex Vivo Mouse Aortas Using Atomic Force Microscopy

J Vis Exp. 2016 Oct 19;(116):54630. doi: 10.3791/54630.


Arterial stiffening is a significant risk factor and biomarker for cardiovascular disease and a hallmark of aging. Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is a versatile analytical tool for characterizing viscoelastic mechanical properties for a variety of materials ranging from hard (plastic, glass, metal, etc.) surfaces to cells on any substrate. It has been widely used to measure the stiffness of cells, but less frequently used to measure the stiffness of aortas. In this paper, we will describe the procedures for using AFM in contact mode to measure the ex vivo elastic modulus of unloaded mouse arteries. We describe our procedure for isolation of mouse aortas, and then provide detailed information for the AFM analysis. This includes step-by-step instructions for alignment of the laser beam, calibration of the spring constant and deflection sensitivity of the AFM probe, and acquisition of force curves. We also provide a detailed protocol for data analysis of the force curves.

Publication types

  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aorta*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Calibration
  • Elastic Modulus
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Atomic Force*